Academic Attributes

The Specialist is distinguished as an academic series in a number of ways. Specialists are engaged in research, and are expected to make scientific, scholarly, and substantive intellectual contributions to the research effort. Individuals appointed to the series are expected to have specialized education or training in a specific discipline, to contribute to the field of scientific or scholarly knowledge, and to attain stature in the professional and scientific community. Specialists contribute specialized knowledge and expertise in the planning and execution of research projects. They are often involved in the training and mentorship of junior-level researchers. Appointees in the Specialist series are assessed on their professional competence and activity, their University and public service, and the value and impact of their contributions to their area of research and their advancement of knowledge in the discipline as judged by other academics and scientists through a process of peer review.

Primary Role

The Specialist makes substantive intellectual contributions to the research efforts with actual duties and percentages of effort dependent on the nature and course of the research and results. Individual efforts are expected to contribute to and advance the field of scientific knowledge.

Measure of Performance

The primary measure of performance for the Specialist is the value and impact of the appointee’s scientific/research contributions, professional competence and activities, and University and public service.

Review Process

The review process for the Specialist is an academic peer review process. The Principal Investigator recommends, evaluates, and justifies the appointment, reappointment, merit increase, or promotion in the academic personnel review file every one to three years depending on the individual’s rank and step. The review includes an assessment of the individual’s contributions to the field of research and stature in the scientific community at-large including evidence of authored/co-authored papers, University and public service, and solicited confidential letters of evaluation from other academics in the field.


DefinitionRanks and StepsAppointment CriteriaTerm of AppointmentCompensationAdvancement

The Specialist series is used for academic appointees who assist in research in specialized areas and who do not have any teaching responsibilities. See APM – 330 for systemwide policy on Specialists.

  • Junior Specialist I-II
  • Assistant Specialist I – III
  • Associate Specialist I – IV
  • Specialist I – V

Specialist appointments may be made to provide research projects with special skills, experience, and knowledge. At the Junior and Assistant levels, the appointee enables research as part of a team. At the Associate and full level, the appointee provides considerable independent input into the planning and execution of research.

In judging a candidate for appointment or promotion in this series, the following criteria are provided as guidelines and may be used flexibly where deemed necessary.

  1. Performance in research in specialized areas
  2. Professional competence and activity
  3. University and public service
  1. There are no limits on service at any level in this series.
  2. Appointments may be made for up to one year at a time.
  1. Individuals appointed to this series are compensated on the salary scales established for the Specialist series on a fiscal year basis.
  2. Off-scale salaries are not allowable in the Specialist series.
  3. Salaries are subject to range adjustments.
  4. Each source that provides compensation for service in this series must permit research.
  1. Appointment
    Appointment cases may be prepared using the Document Matrix V. Particular attention should be paid to the analytical evaluation of the candidate and the candidate’s accomplishments.
  2. Advancement
    Advancement cases may be prepared using Document Matrix V. All advancement cases are based on the individual’s achievements and the availability of funding. Normal advancement will occur after one year at step at the Junior level, two years at step at the Assistant and Associate level, and after three years at the full Specialist level. Merits are based on the academic record since the time of the last review while promotions are based on the career academic record. Any advancement requested prior to that time is considered an acceleration.
  3. Chair/Director Letters of Recommendation
    The Chair/Director’s letter of recommendation for merit or promotion should include an evaluation of the candidate’s work and an evaluation of the candidate’s contributions to the group effort, if relevant. In addition, recommendations for promotion must provide documentation of the scientific or creative contributions of the candidate. Each unit should establish set procedures for evaluation of Specialist series appointments and advancements and development of the letter of recommendation. While review done solely by the Director or the Principal Investigator is acceptable, a fuller review, including input from other equal or higher ranking individuals in the unit is preferable.
  4. External Evaluation
    External letters of evaluation may be required for some advancements. Campus policy should be consulted.

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